Abbot’s Commanding Officers:
Robert Samuel Salzer

May 5, 1954 — April 1956

Navy Biography


Although his career began with a series of modest wartime postings to small minesweepers on the East Coast of the United States, Robert Salzer rose to command the U.S. Navy in Vietnam and achieve the rank of vice admiral.

Robert Samuel Salzer was born in New York City on 29 July 1919. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, from which he received a bachelor of arts degree in economics in 1940. While at Yale, he was a member of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, and was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 23 December 1940.

After receiving his commission, Salzer was assigned to the office of the Chief of Naval Operations until 1942, when he joined the small Accentor-class minesweeper Fulmar, based in Portland, Maine. In March 1943 he reported as officer in charge of the small minesweeper Summit, which was based in Florida, and in July 1943 assumed command of the wood-hulled in-shore motor minesweeper YMS-347.

He commanded the tank landing ship LST-624 from June 1944 to December 1945, participating in the Lingayen Gulf landings, the Manila Bay-Bicol operations and the occupation of Okinawa Gunto.

Salzer was on inactive duty from April to September 1946, when he returned to active duty as executive officer of the fleet oiler Guadalupe. In February 1948 he joined the staff of Commander Fleet Training Group, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, as navigation officer. He received instruction at the Naval Intelligence School from July 1948 until December 1949, after which he served on the staff there.

He reported in March 1951 as executive officer of the Gearing-class destroyer Charles H. Roan, and in March 1952 became assistant intelligence officer on the staff of Commander Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. In August 1952 he was assigned as intelligence staff officer on the staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command and in April 1954 assumed command of Abbot.

From 1 June to 18 December 1954, Abbot and Destroyer Division 242 circumnavigated the globe. He handed command of Abbot to Commander Willard DeVenter in April 1956.

Salzer was an intelligence staff officer on the Joint Staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff, from April 1956 to July 1959, after which he attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. In June 1960, he reported as assistant for joint chiefs of staff matters in the Logistics Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He remained there until August 1961, then commanded the Shenandoah-class destroyer tender Bryce Canyon and in January 1963 was detached to command Destroyer Division 132. In March 1963 he transferred to command of Destroyer Division 192.

He returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in May 1964, where he served as head of the Analytical Support Group until October 1965. He then reported as deputy program director for the Fast Deployment Logistic Ship Project in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

He assumed command of Amphibious Squadron 4 in February 1966, serving from 1 April until 25 August 1967, when he became commander of River Assault Flotilla 1/River Support Squadron 7/Riverine Assault Force (Commander Task Force 117). He was assigned as commander of Operation Sealords in October 1968.

Salzer returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as project officer of the Future Professional Manpower Requirements Study from November 1968 to December 1969, when he assumed command of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 3. He assumed command of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 7 in September 1970 and upon the disestablishment of that Flotilla on 16 March 1971 transferred to command of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 3. In April of that year he reported as commander of United States Naval Forces Vietnam and chief of the Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

In September 1972 he became commander of the Amphibious Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. He later commanded the Naval Service Forces of the Pacific Fleet before retiring in 1975. His military decorations include three Navy Distinguished Service Medals.

Vice Admiral Salzer, who had kept a home in the Washington area since just after World War II, was a past president of the Navy Relief Society.

He died in McLean, Virginia, at the age of 68 on 30 January 1988, following heart surgery. Survivors included his wife, Jane Salzer of McLean; four sons, Thomas and David Salzer, both of McLean, James Salzer of Irvine, Calif., and Robert Salzer Jr. of Philadelphia; and four grandchildren.

Sources: U.S. Naval Historical Center
The Washington Post